How to get to know your customers in design thinking

Empathy. All people have it. But oftentimes, we forget how to use it. We are used to having presumptions about people around us because it’s easier to have biases about someone than to actually get to know him/her. However, empathy is a vital part of design thinking process and crucial part of getting to know your customers. It requires time and effort, but it is the right thing to do, and in the end, it pays off. Follow these steps and learn how.

Why Is Empathy Good For Your Business?

Empathy is the first out of five phases of design thinking process which we covered in the last blog. It is often highlighted as the crucial part of the whole process. But, why is it so important? Can we go without it?

Although there are various market research methods, none of them can explain why people act like they do. While traditional research methods focus on facts about people, empathy gives us an insight into another dimension – consumer’s motivations, fears, thoughts. And these are all important to portrait a full picture of a customer.

In order to build things people want, you first need to understand people, put a human into a center. Only with a full picture of a customer, you will fully understand his needs. That means, without an empathetic understanding of a customer, you will build products that you want, and not him.

You can't build a solution for a problem without a clear understanding of a problem.Click To Tweet

Going to the Core of the Problem

We in AWW app are trying to empathize with our customers and find out about the struggles they are facing at their jobs. We believe in building a relationship from the start. So, we use email tool to communicate with customers as soon as they register. In the welcome email, we ask our customers these questions: “Why did you sign for AWW? What do you hope it will help you with?”

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When they answer those, we are asking further questions – sometimes called 5 Why’s. With every question, we go deeper into specific details of their problem until we get a complete picture of the customer. For example, we can ask them to describe the way they think AWW will help them with a certain task. Or which aspects of the certain task were they struggling before they did it with AWW. And most important of all – what is their end goal, the purpose of doing the task anyway

Sometimes, when we feel the customer is willing to give more, we schedule a call to make a stronger connection and have a better insight into customer’s needs.

It is important to ask your customers about their problems. Don't only try to validate your product.Click To Tweet

Final Illustration of Your Customer – Empathy Map

Now it’s time we put all that data on a paper. Or maybe it’s better to say – a map. Empathy map is a useful tool for putting together all the information you have gathered in your research. In our case, it is a general problem-defining map and not a UX – evaluation empathy map. In an example below, we have portrayed a product owner from an international software company.

Empathy map is divided into six segments:

  1. Pain – All the frustrations, obstacles and struggles customers are facing in their everyday life, that your product can solve.
  2. Gain – Needs of the customer in the area your product is covering.
  3. Say & Do – Attitude in public, behavior towards others, actions.
  4. See – Environment, what the market offers, current solutions to the problem.
  5. Hear – Tips from friends, family, and colleagues. Advice and suggestions from influencers.
  6. Think & Feel – Things that are really important. Worries and preoccupations. Aspirations.
Empathy map example
Empathy map example for AWW customer

As you can see, our product owner is facing the problem of the different time zone as she is in the USA office, and the development team is in Vietnam. She is facing the language barrier as she doesn’t speak Vietnamese, while Vietnamese team is struggling with English. At last, she finds written treatises hard to process and lacking visual aid.


Her goal is to get on the same page with all the members of the international team in real time. Also, she wants to cut down any possible misinterpretations that might happen due to poor language skills from both sides of the team.

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The way she tackles the problem right now is not satisfying. She does have a physical whiteboard in her office, but it’s not practical to access it at 5 am when the meeting is usually called. She prefers a solution which she can access from the comfort of her home. Also, the whiteboard has a limited space and she can’t collaborate with the rest of the team members on the content of the board in real time.

Think and Feel

Very often she feels overwhelmed with the size and density of the treatises in a written form. Sometimes she feels frustrated over the language barrier between her and her Vietnamese colleagues. 

Say and Do

She would prefer a visual tool which will enable her team to section off a part of the written form on which they agree.


She has heard of AWW app from her colleague, as a possible solution to her problems and she decided to give it a try.

Free Empathy Map Template

Want to try it yourself? Click the Start drawing button on the interactive image below and doodle out your first AWW empathy map. Use the text tool to fill out the map, and zoom in the image if you feel you don’t have enough space. 

You can share it with your team members and colleagues or you can do it on your own. When you’re done you can click invite menu and download the image to save the map to your computer. To have the best drawing experience try our premium features for free.  



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Author: Dorotea Knezevic

Head of Marketing at AWW. Google certified specialist, content creator and social media enthusiast